10 Oct 2023 19:12

Tourist flows with China, Mongolia could return to pre-pandemic levels in 2024 - Russian official

MOSCOW. Oct 10 (Interfax) - Tourist numbers between Russia, China and Mongolia could be restored to pre-pandemic levels in 2024, Russian Deputy Minister of Economic Development Dmitry Vakhrukov said at a meeting of the three countries' tourism administration chiefs on Tuesday.

"With all Covid restrictions now lifted, we are seeing a gradual restoration of tourist flows, and we hope that next year, after all our current bilateral and trilateral cooperation mechanisms have been further built upon, tourist flows between our countries will return to the pre-pandemic levels," Vakhrukov said at the meeting in Wuhan, China.

Russia is taking measures to stimulate inbound tourism, he said. These include introducing electronic visas from August 1 for nationals of 55 countries, and some 70,000 people have used the mechanism in the two months since, he said. Another mechanism launched on August 1 is visa-free group travel, thanks to which the number of such visa-free exchanges with China has now reached 60,000 trips, Vakhrukov said.

Russia plans to introduce a Tourist Card by the end of year to simplify cashless payments for foreign tourists, he said.

Russia is also developing its tourism infrastructure by supporting the industry in priority areas through building more hotel rooms and new points of attraction, he said.

For his part, Chinese Vice Culture and Tourism Minister Du Jiang proposed forming common tourist brands, integrating tourism with science, technology and other spheres, and improving the trilateral (Russia-China-Mongolia) mechanisms of tourism cooperation. He also invited Russia to take part in a China outbound tourism international exhibition next month.

In the first half of 2023, Chinese citizens made almost 140,000 trips to Russia. This is more than during the entire pandemic. Over the same period, Mongolian citizens made over 115,000 trips. The number of tourist trips to Russia forecast for the whole of 2023 is 360,000 from China and 250,000 from Mongolia.